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Education REFERENDUM

School district leaders from across Washington County made sure 10 of their local legislators will head back to Salem Monday with a clear idea of their legislative priorities.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Yasmine Weil-Pourfard, a Forest Grove High School senior, talks about challenges in the classroom for students during a roundtable discussion at the Washington County K-8 Education Forum.

At the top of the list for Banks, Forest Grove, Gaston, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Sherwood and Tigard-Tualatin is legislation to increase and stabilize the State School Fund, including comprehensive tax reform and effective use of the rainy-day fund.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton talks to Washington County school district leaders about what it will take to ensure students' future academic success.

A close second is financial support for statewide initiatives and relief from unfunded legislative mandates, including implementation of full-day kindergarten in 2015 and increasing physical education class time by 2017.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Hillsboro School Superintendent Mike Scott talks with state Rep. Jeff Barker during a roundtable discussion about the challenges of unfunded legislative mandates.

Superintendents and school board representatives gathered Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Beaverton School District Administration Center for the second Washington County K-12 Education Forum with state legislators, continuing conversations started in 2013 at a forum in Forest Grove.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - State Rep. Margaret Doherty says legislators will need to come up with funding to help implement full-day kindergarten in all schools in 2015.

They were joined by a handful of teachers, counselors and principals from Beaverton, Tualatin and Forest Grove; Oregon Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton; and members of the Oregon School Boards Association.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - State Rep. Joe Gallegos tells Washington County school district leaders they can count on Gain Share funding in the future.“We’ve come a long way, but there is still important work to do,” said John Hayes, Forest Grove School Board chairman.

To give legislative delegates a clear picture of how their work in Salem affects what happens in schools — and the county’s estimated 81,000 students — district leaders broke into small groups to discuss issues.

A common concern was how school districts were going to be able to offer full-day kindergarten to all students in the fall of 2015 as a result of Senate Bill 248.

“It is a great initiative if it is funded,” said Hillsboro Schools Superintendent Mike Scott.

He spoke with state Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Beaverton, about the challenge of districts having to deplete funding for other good programs in order to cover the added staffing costs to implement full-day kindergarten. In addition to requiring more teachers, districts also must grapple with the need for additional space to accommodate classes in schools that are already at capacity.

Districts are also looking ahead to 2017, when House Bill 3141 goes into effect and schools must offer 150 minutes a week in K-8 physical education instruction, nearly tripling today’s requirements.

“We need to think about the competing forces for our students,” Scott advised legislators. “When you make a decision to increase requirements around physical education, that takes time away from some other area of instruction.”

School leaders asked legislators for help meeting the mandates — in funding and discretion to come up with creative solutions. The message appeared to hit home with state leaders.

“Unfunded mandates need to be more realistic,” said state Rep. Joe Gallegos, D-Hillsboro.




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